There is a room in Nick Bostrom's Institute of Doom at Oxford labeled the Arkhipov Room.
If you were born before Oct. 27, 1962, you owe Vasili Arkhipov your life. What I'm talking about is how Arkhipov declined to start WWIII during the Cuban missile crisis. Our US Navy was hammering his sub with intense sonar and practice signal depth charges, in an attempt to force it to the surface. The captains of Arkhipov's flotilla voted unanimously to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike. Arkhipov overruled them.
If you were born after that date, thank Vasili you don't have two heads, or a heart outside your body, or that you are not some kind of tumorific retarded abomination.
(Oh, that's not strictly true, human response to various kinds of ionizing radiation is quite an impressive spectrum. Some people can shrug even lethal doses off, others are shrinking violets, killed by a sun tan).
Radiation would have been a problem, but the more important threat of nuclear winter certainly would have produced a substantial cull. Estimates of nuclear stockpiles in 1962 put it around a total of about 740 megatons. That's more than enough for a really good solid 10 year nuclear winter. Throw in the ionizing radiation, and it's a pretty good bet that humanity would have numbers reduced by around 90%, maybe 99%, with our tech level pushed back to probably 500AD.
The rich and the powerful, of course, would have been safely snug in their underground dens, but even they would face a bleak future once they stuck their soft little heads out, blinking stupidly in the harsh UV light, what with the ozone layer blown to Mars.
How bad, specifically? Well, the US of A enjoyed a six to one superiority in nukes over Soviet Russia. This is one of the reasons the Soviets bankrupted themselves, trying to achieve parity (which they did, briefly, in the 1970s).
The United States was armed with 203 ICBMs, 1,306 bombers with 3,104 warheads, and 144 SLBMs. Some 26,400 warheads.
The Soviets had 36 ICBMs, 138 bombers ferrying 392 warheads, 72 SLBMs. Around 3300 warheads.
US of A: 630 megatons. Soviet Union: 103-280 megatons, depending upon whom you talk to. Anything worth bombing in the USSR would have been scraped clean to bedrock in a little under two hours. The Russian language would be "spoken only in Hell".
For the US? We would have "got our hair mussed".Noted psychopath General Curtis LeMay was correct in calling President Kennedy "a pussy", in that the US would have wiped the floor with the Soviets. But, every city on the eastern seaboard, from Boston to Miami, and as far west and North as Houston to Dallas to Cincinnati would be smoking holes in the crust of the Earth. 20-40 million Americans dead for starters. Many more once the shroud of poisons had circled the Earth.
And my fate? Interestingly enough, and unknown to us, our neighborhood had kind of banded together and come with a plan of people sharing basements. Ludicrous, yes. Even more bizarre? I found out that our neighborhood had a swingers' club, about four or five households.
Yes, all those parents swapping partners and fucking in orgies. I don't think my parents were in the club, but who knows? One does not like to think about one's parents fucking each other, let alone fucking neighbors. But, hey, Mom and Dad were young and attractive once, so who knows?
Interestingly, every single one of the swinger households? Had a basement. Hmmm.
Other things. Working on some more bronzes. This one is tentatively titled "You Don't Know Where That's Been".
And lastly, a poem I wrote in my head on the drive to work:
One Hundred Years Ago
Took some mustard gas
in my morning joe
killed off my umami tastebuds
now I have no problem
with all things unsavory
back from hospital
agitated and sleepless
Hitler scuttles about in the trenches
his komeraden threaten
to throw him over the top
if he does not settle the fuck down